Kids & Journaling

A photo of many coloured journals beside the words "Teach your kids to journal" as part of written therapy.

When I was in Grade 5 (10 years old), I wrote a short story and a poem and submitted them in a contest. As a result, I was invited to attend the Young Authors of Canada conference in Montreal later that year. When my radtastical teacher, Mrs. Kirwin, told me the news, I practically levitated with excitement the entire way home. Unfortunately, when I told my mom the news, even though she was truly proud of me, she told me I couldn’t go to the conference. 

I. was. pissed.

My 10-year-old brain could not even fathom the costs of flying a child and her mother across the entire country, so when mom told me that we just couldn’t afford it, I was less than gracious about it. I threw a tantrum. 

I remember this so clearly, in such detail, that it must be one of those defining milestones in a child’s life. I was mid-tantrum when my mom slapped me across the face. It wasn’t a hard slap (and shit like that was perfectly acceptable back then), but it sure as shit stopped me in my tracks. She told me she didn’t want to hear another word unless I could lose my attitude and be nicer. I stormed off to my room and stewed for hours, screaming in frustration every now and then. (Yes, I was a complete SHIT when I was a child…)

Just before bedtime, mom came into my room and sat on my bed, where I was still pouting, arms crossed and glaring out the window. She told me that she understood how upset I was about not being able to go to the conference and that she was extremely proud that I’d been invited because she knew how much I loved writing stories and poems. But, she said, despite the reasons for not being able to go, she wasn’t going to apologize about not being able to afford the trip and that my behaviour and treatment of her was totally unacceptable. She said that, from that point on, when if I became extremely angry, I was to come to my room and write down everything I was feeling and thinking instead of speaking out loud about it. She said that it would give me the chance to get all of my anger out and it would stop me from hurting someone’s feelings by speaking unkind words.  She also said that I didn’t have to apologize to her because she knew how upset I was, but she wanted me to really think about how I spoke to her from that point onward. 

She placed something on my bed and walked out of my room. I looked down to see a cute little notebook and a pack of ballpoint pens in assorted colours. It was one of those old Hilroy books with the top half of the page blank and bottom half lined and she’d written “Jo’s Anger Journal” on the front in her neat printing. 

Man alive, I was good at being a shithead.

Aside from the fact that I was THRILLED with the cool pens AND the gift of the new notebook, I immediately picked it up and wrote my mom an angry, assholish letter. I made sure to point out that she was a terrible mother, that she didn’t care about me, that if she really loved me she would find the money to make my dreams come true (hahaha, Jayzus, right!). One of the lines I wrote said, “My mom is such a bich. She is always trying to ruin my dreams. I don’t even like her at all.” 

I was 10. What in the actual fuck?

I went to sleep that night with the book on the floor beside my bed and, when I woke up, I noticed the book was on my desk. Curious, I walked over and opened it to the entry I’d made the night before. My mom, with the rad sense of humour that she was famous for, had used a red pen to cross out “bich” and wrote “bitch” above it. 😂She’d also written, directly underneath the part where I’d said I didn’t like her, “Sometimes I don’t like your attitude or your smart mouth, but I always love you, am always be proud of you, and will always be here for you.”

I bolted out of my room to the kitchen, feeling a huge amount of remorse for being such an asshole and so childish, and wrapped my arms around her and told her how sorry I was. 

I have been journaling ever since and it has helped me get through some of the darkest times in my life. That first journal turned into a lifelong therapy tool and, knowing how much writing helps me to process my own shit and connect with others, I am eternally grateful for her motherly insight and the push to get me started. 

Surrender Is The Key To Happiness

Jo Johnson writing on her living room floor, pen in hand, contemplating life.

Creature of habit.
Even though I am not a planner, I am definitely a creature of habit in the mornings. If I vary from my usual routine, I just can’t get my shit together and my productivity and purpose plummet drastically.
I do the same thing every morning, in the same order and
if I stray from that routine, even a little bit, I’m fuckered. I never realized how habitual I was nor how much I depended on my routine until my Lyme symptoms became so debilitating that they bounced me out of it and I was constantly flailing, scrambling to get shit done, and feeling quite lost and despondent about it.
It’s taken me months to accept that I can only expect to be my usual energetic, productive, intelligent self around 50% of the time right now. 🤷🏻‍♀️I take heart that on the days when I DO feel good, I speed around like a hummingbird, crossing tasks off my list, writing up a storm, getting outdoors to ride or hike or whatever else I feel up for.
My point, once again, is that surrendering is the only way to find true happiness. The moment we start rebelling against our circumstances, hating them, longing for something different, we up our anxiety level, trigger sadness and depression, and actually take ourselves farther from where we want to be.
If we struggle against our circumstances and refuse to accept them, we make it harder to deal with them because we take ourselves out of the present, out of the moment. The trick is to BE here, in the moment, looking at it and saying, “Okay, self, this is happening right now and we can handle it.”
Capiche? On the days when I wake up with too much pain to function or a brain too stupid to think properly, I surrender. I accept. I find ways to do whatever I can and stay relaxed and rested so that my body will heal and I don’t waste time stressing that I’m not at my best or lamenting that I won’t cross much off my list.
Having that mindset makes those days much easier than spending the day pissed off that I can’t function.

The Dragonfly is my Spirit Animal

When I was a little girl, my mom told me that when a dragonfly lands on us it is always one of our deceased loved ones or spirit guides checking in and letting us know they’re around and watching over us. I grew up obsessed with dragonflies—always wondering who was stopping in to say hello when one perched delicately on my hand or shoulder. It wasn’t until I was regularly swarmed by dragonflies after my mom’s death that her story and my obsession really started to wake me up. After a few years of dragonflies following me around and landing on me all the time, I finally figured out that my energy changes with their visits.

After my daughter Cora died, a little blue beauty landed on my leg and hung out for hours through periods of ugly sobbing and total numbness. Lightly perched on my knee, it would look at me, turning its head from side to side like a dog who is trying to figure out what its human is saying. When my sobs shook me too hard, it would flutter up and land on a different part of my body, always looking at me, turning its head. It even rode around on my dog Juno for a little while. On some level, I knew that the moment was significant and that I should pay attention, but I was too exhausted from grief to acknowledge it. Months later, when some of the haze of grief cleared, I remembered the little blue dragonfly and finally recognized it as the first sign Cora had sent me to let me know she was still with me.

Now, nearly nine years after losing Cora (and 20 years after losing my mom), I always recognize the significance of dragonflies. I giggle when they only land on me and follow me, even though there are other people around. I recognize that my vibe jumps instantly when I even see a dragonfly flit by, let alone when one lands on me.

Yesterday while I was outside in the yard, attempting to finish up the ties on our new chain link fence and cursing the pain and lack of strength in my fingers and wrists, I had a quick visit. It’s very early in the season, but a small red dragonfly flew by my face and landed briefly on my gloved hand. The shift was instantaneous. The pain in my joints lessened, my frustration with my body’s limitations right now eased, and I felt sunshine fill my darkest places again.

Believe what you will, but I am 159.6% convinced that dragonflies are my spirit animal…bug…spirit bug? LOL

Letting Go Is Always The Best Choice, For Me.

I’m into writing really terrible haikus lately because, well, they MAKE ME BELLY LAUGH like Buddha! This morning, I woke up with this one in my head:

Standing in the storm.
The choice is here before me.
Resist or let go?

Deep in the core of my soul, I knew it was time. Just as I knew it was time to end my marriage years before I actually admitted it to myself, I’ve known for years that I must let go of photography if I want to be a successful full-time writer and editor. If I hadn’t known this, I wouldn’t have returned to university in 2017 to work on my Masters in Publishing. I wouldn’t have completed a Certificate in Editing, despite how time-consuming it was on top of my regular life schedule.

Sure, being a professional photographer is sexy…on the surface. People ask me, “What do you do?” and when I tell them I’m a photographer, their eyebrows shoot up and they say things like, “Oh! Wow!” and “That’s so cool!” The reality of being a photographer though is that there are thousands of us everywhere you look and the old model of “just be you and your ideal clients will find you” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Nowadays, it consists of keeping up with the never-ending demands of social media and keywords and SEO—staying in the spotlight, posting great content, engaging with your fans, posting a few times a week, keeping up with the changes in rules and regulations and WHAT THE FUCK, Facebook! STOP CHANGING YOUR GODDAMNED ALGORITHMS EVERY 10 SECONDS. Da fuck? Who has the time or the mental capacity for that kind of constant upkeep? I certainly don’t. Plus, there is also the totally unglamorous (and physically painful) aspect of the job that is EDITING ENDLESS PHOTOS.

Truth be told, I’m tired of the game. I’m tired of the constant hustle to bring in new clients and maintain relationships with past clients. I’m tired of being on my social media all the time and I’m tired of having to spend time on all that stuff when all I want to do is read, write, and edit. When all I have ever truly wanted to be is a writer and editor. When my guides tell me EVERY DAMN DAY that writing is my life’s purpose and I need to get on it.

The way of life is that shit eventually runs its course and we have to learn to recognize it and let go of it before we waste years beating our heads against a wall and filling up with needless regret. Why didn’t I recognize how unhappy I was? Why did I wait so long to make this change? What am I hanging onto when I know there is nothing left here for me? When I know this no longer feeds my soul?

So, I’m outta here, so-to-speak!

From now on, my “spare” time will be spent hanging out with my family and friends “engaging” in real life relationships with people in my immediate bubble. My days will be filled with a glorious plethora of words and corrections, as well as blushing sheepishly over my own missed typos and grammar faux pas (even great writers have shit moments). And, the best part, is that I can’t wait to write so much and about so many different things that I fly through shit so fast, I make really silly mistakes so others can send me “helpful” emails letting me know of my erroneous ways. LOL.

Bring it on, writing world. I’m so fucking ready for you!